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The regeneration niche of white spruce following fire in the mixedwood boreal forest Open Access


Author or creator
Purdy, B. G.
MacDonald, S. E.
Dale, M. R. T.
Additional contributors
White spruce
Natural disturbance
Boreal forest
Type of item
Journal Article (Published)
Abstract: Early establishment of white spruce (Picea glauca) in mixedwood boreal forest stands following fire was examined at several times-since-fire (1-, 2-, 4-, 6-, 14-years). Abiotic and biotic conditions in the stands were assessed at two scales, tree plot (5 in x 5 in) and microsite (1 m x 1 m), along with presence, density and height of white spruce seedlings. Germination and survival of seed sown 1- and 4-years post fire were quantified. Survival and growth of nursery-grown seedlings, and mycorrhizal colonization, survival and growth of sterile seedlings, planted 1-year post-fire were assessed. At the tree plot scale, presence of white spruce seedlings 1-year post-fire could be reliably predicted by organic layer depth and distance to and strength of seed source. In contrast, none of the biotic or abiotic factors measured was strongly correlated with occurrence or density of white spruce seedlings 6- and 14- years post-fire. At the microsite scale, seedling recruitment immediately post-fire was limited to a distinct subset of available microsites (greater % cover of downed wood and moss, lower % cover of litter and herbaceous vegetation). Likewise, seedling occurrence in older bums was associated with distinct microsite conditions; although this was more likely an effect of white spruce presence, rather than the cause. Less than 3% of seed sown 1 yr post-fire survived to become 1 yr old germinants, survival was 41% over the next three years. Availability of suitable regeneration microsites declines rapidly with time-since-fire; less than 0.3% of seed sown 4 yrs post-fire survived one year. High rates of mycorrhizal colonization were found on white spruce seedlings planted 1-year post-fire, including early and late stage fungal species. Micrositc characteristics were only weakly correlated with mycorrhizal fungal communities. We propose that immediate post-fire recruitment of white spruce is a key process in mixedwood boreal succession.
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© 2002 Finnish Society of Forest Science. This version of this article is open access and can be downloaded and shared. The original author(s) and source must be cited.
Citation for previous publication
Purdy, B.G. S.E. Macdonald, and M.R.T. Dale. 2002. The regeneration niche of white spruce following fire in the mixedwood boreal forest. Silva Fennica 36:289-306.
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